Water Up – Ducks Down

March 30, 2009 by  

By PJ Maguire

Waterfowlers in ND are very disappointed with 2004 duck numbers, especially with another liberal season

Waterfowlers in ND are very disappointed with 2004 duck numbers, especially with another liberal season

When flights of ducks returned to the prairies of North Dakota from the south, numbers looked good for the 2004 waterfowl season. The annual spring breeding duck index was the 3rd highest on record, and was up 9% from last year. These numbers were surprising considering that there was a 16% decrease in available waters at the time.

All species of ducks were up in the survey except, two of the most bagged ducks in Nodak; the Mallard and blue-winged teal.

In 2004 the survey was conducted in North Dakota for the 57th consecutive year. Game and Fish biologists drive 8 different routes across North Dakota and count the number of ducks and waters with in 220 yards of the road. These counts help predict how many ducks will be breeding across the state each year.

Although the water levels remained consistent across the state the expected bird numbers did not. In Mid-July the Game and Fish conducted the brood index survey and found the index to be down by 45%. This survey is similar to the breeding survey, only the number of ducklings per family is counted, not the number of ducks.

The 2004 migration is likely to be down about 40% from where it was last year. In 2003 the Game and Fish counted an average 6.8 ducklings per clutch. The average this past July was 6.4, which is still 77% above the 1955-2003 average. Waterfowl hunters should not worry much. There is still plenty of ducks out there and more water than earlier in the year.

“I’ve seen less ducks this season while scouting for geese than in the past. Usually they give us a good show in the field before the geese start flying.” Said Matt Jones (not the hockey player) a third year undeclared major.

The 2004 duck season begins Sept. 25 for North Dakotan residents and Oct. 2, for non-residents. The shooting hours are one half hour before sunrise to sunset. Check local sporting goods stores for daily and possession bag limits of specific species.

Minnesota is doing something new this year. The waterfowl season will begin at 9 am, rather then the traditional noon opener. This new law was passed by the legislature over the summer. Because of this hunters should have a little boost to the start of the 2004 season.

The noon opener started in Minnesota years ago so that hunters would go out and spend money in the small towns buying breakfast before the hunt. It stayed for many years because of tradition. I for one think it’s a great change for the state of Minnesota.

The Minnesota season begins on Sept. 25, for everyone. If you plan to hunt there, read up on their goose zones and motorized decoy restrictions. Everyone have a safe and enjoyable season.


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